Car Wax Polish
Which is it and what is the Difference?

No doubt you are searching for car wax polish so you can make your car shine. But the fact that you have lumped all those terms into a single search term would suggest that you do not understand the difference between a car wax and a car polish.

Do not be insulted as you are simply a byproduct of a bigger problem which is continually exploited by big business through slick marketing and advertising; and the problem is nothing more than ignorance.

While the industry could actually help you become an informed consumer which would allow you to make informed decisions, they much prefer to keep you a good, obedient, ignorant sheep. It is much easier to separate you from your money when you remain ignorant.

car wax and polish

Car Wax and Polish
Understanding the difference

Car Wax: Car wax serves two very specific purposes:

  1. Paint protection.
  2. Visual enhancement.

Car Polish: Polish and compounds serve separate purposes:

  1. Restoring lost gloss and shine.
  2. Removing paint blemishes that have been created at the surface.
  3. Additional "cleansing" of the paint to remove certain air born contaminates.

"The cosmetic car care industry is filled with endless hype, misrepresentation, and false claims. Add to this an endless list of terms and labels that are misused by everyone from people with good intentions, to industry giants who want to keep the public ignorant."

Understanding Car Wax

I look at car wax much the same way I look at sunscreen for your skin, or moisturizers for your skin. A product that will help protect, nourish, and enhance the appearance of the outermost layer.

understanding car wax with blackfire car wax

While many people think that there exists this "silver bullet" of car wax that will magically transform your car paint into a true work of beauty, is nothing more than wishful thinking propagated by the industry with one major goal at transfer your money away from you.

"From the moment you are born till the day you die, you must realize that there exists a never ending assault to separate you from your money"

Every industry is guilty of it and the cosmetic car care industry is no exception. Done with slick advertising, brightly colored products, and glorified terms that are nothing more than made-up labels used to exploit your emotions and thus separate you from your money once again.

If you doubt me on this, simply rummage through your closets and take inventory on all the endless "things" you own. And stand back and think how often you actually use any of this "stuff" on a regular basis. The reality is that you could likely survive if you eliminated 80% of all the "stuff: you own.

But yet we continue to buy more and more stuff! A problem I refer to as "chronic consumerism".

The Good News and the Bad News

pinnacle car wax

Now that I just pulled back the curtain and sucked the life out of the room with my straight talk, let me add some rays of hope.

With advances in chemical engineering and manufacturing, there exists today an almost endless selection a extremely high grade, quality products. The endless list of car w3axes is no exception.

And this is both the good and the bad news!

It's bad in that now you are on what I refer to as information overload; too many choices all being promoted with endless opinions! It's good in that you could almost close your eyes and simply reach out and grab any product and find yourself holding a very good, to great car wax.

Understanding Limitations

I am unsure if you yourself have taken note, but when was the last time a product label has informed you of the products limitations?

How about never!

Sure they will list the myriad benefits, list the regulated warnings, and of course the products directions, but this is where it stops. What you will never find is a company that will apply enough context or limitations for you to really make an informed decision.

dewalt car wax polishing

"If you learn nothing else from this page; at least learn these two important factors: car wax will merely enhance the "canvass" called your car paint as it exists in its current condition. Polishing the paint through the use of abrasives called polishes or compounds is the only way to actually restore and remove defects, scratches, and loss of shine."

With that said, we should now come to a few important and critical conclusions:

  1. Wax will add necessary protection.
  2. Wax will only enhance the the paint in its current condition; scratches, blemishes and all.
  3. Wax can disguise, conceal, and camouflage all the endless blemishes of your car paint, but only relative to the condition of the paint itself and this is where not all waxes are creates equal.
  4. Some waxes or sealants excel in durability, some excel at visual enhancement.

"Ultimately what we are doing is separating the difference between paint enhancement and paint correction"

Paint Correction and Car Polishes

car wash polish porsche turbo s

As suggested above, it is only through the use of abrasives that you are going to perform what is officially referred to as paint correction; the ability to permanently remove, restore, and actually improve car paint to either "original like", or better than original condition.

"It is not only feasible, but truly possible to polish your car's paint to a level of shine, gloss, and depth that was not even present the day it rolled off the factory assembly line"

People in their diminished state of knowledge and experience, think differently. We have been lead to believe that by simply finding that "secret" car wax that the industry hides intentionally from the public can magically turn a lack-luster car into a glorious show piece work of art without so much as applying some over-priced, hyped-up car wax!

Dismiss this distorted view of reality!

Car Paint Correction and Math

You may wonder what paint correction and math have in common. Not much really; just a great metaphor for better understanding.

While paint enhancement could be simplified by addition, paint correction could be simplified through subtraction.

Paint Enhancement: While the protective qualities of car wax and car sealants is not to be diminished. The application of car wax is a process of addition; you are applying a product that essentially is "adding" a layer that will provide protection, but also cover up small imperfections while enhancing the appearance of the car paint. Since we are adding something to the paint itself, I think it is both appropriate and suitable to refer to this as addition; hence the metaphor of math.

Paint Correction: Paint correction is a permanent way to restore depth, shine, and gloss through the removal of blemishes, scratches, and other paint imperfections; hence we are subtracting (math) from the thickness of the clear coat to perform what is referred to as paint correction. It is only through the combined efforts of abrasive's in the form of polishes/compounds, polishing pads in their endless forms, and car polishers in their many forms, that true paint correction can be performed at a permanent basis. But "permanent" and "lasting" are two different discussions. It is one thing to permanently attain a higher level of perfection of your car's paint, entirely different to be able to sustain this new level of perfection.  Sustaining this new level of shine and gloss is mostly up to the car owner moving forward. A permanent "fix" can quickly be damaged or ruined by improper maintenance routines of subsequent washing and waxing.

Two for One; Car Wax Polish

Since we are hard-wired to be lazy creatures, the industry simply responds to what people want. But what people want is entirely different than what is actually possible.

Every industry has its examples of:

  • All-in-one.
  • Multi-use.
  • All-purpose.

With cosmetic car care, this is translated into products promoted as cleaner waxes, or all-in-one (AIO) polishes and waxes.

To simplify this convoluted subject, it can be reduced down to the lazy man's way of getting more with less:

  • More results with less effort.
  • More results with less products.

Everything Has Its Trade-Off's

As a rule, whenever you combine tasks into a single step or product, you will always have to accept certain unwanted trade off's. Store shelves are lined with multi-purpose anything.

bmw car wax polish

At the top level of paint correction processes, every step is treated as its own unique step along with dedicated products that are uniquely designed and formulated for that specific step in the overall process.

As science and chemical engineering advance, I think the line between task specific products and multi-purpose products will begin to fade. What is happening within  the professional world of auto detailing and high-end paint correction is part of the cycle within every industry.

Little by little the industry pushes the public opinion and habits towards one end of the spectrum. Once critical mass tipping point has been reached, there is only one other direction for the industry to lead the masses and that is in the direct opposite direction.

The Cycle of Industry, Culture, Fashion

For the past 20 or so years, the industry has been developing what appeared to be a never ending supply of more and more specialized products at every level.

  • Special waxes labeled as clear coat safe.
  • Special waxes for dark colored cars.
  • Special waxes for light colored cars.
  • Special cleaners for leather.
  • Special cleaners for upholstery.
  • Etc., etc., etc. ad nauseam.

Since the goal of big business by its core nature is to separate you from your money, then this became the standard within any industry:

"Create a never ending supply of highly specialized products for very specific and specialized problems and/or benefits, and now society is filling their shelves with more products, not less products. Thus separating you from more and more of your money."

Car Wax and Polish:
Coming full circle

car wax polish

In case you have been asleep at the wheel, or perhaps simply too busy making a living to take notice, but the industry is now responding to the tipping point of too many products. Now we have the emergence of true 1-step compounds and polishes.

Instead of having 2, 3, or even 4 levels of compounds in which to perform paint correction, the industry is quickly evolving by formulating 1-step compounds that can take you from aggressive paint correction steps to finish polishing all with a single compound.

Now, all that is needed is a single car buffer, 1 or 2 different polishing pads. Now you can go from removing sanding marks to hologram free perfection with a single compound and only one pad change.

"Darren, now that you have successfully pulled back the curtain on a very convoluted subject, what products can you recommend so that I can begin to get what I really want; a head turning shine to my car that not only becomes the envy of my neighborhood, but is protected at the same time?"

Simplifying the Process

By this point you can officially be numbered among the minority of society known as the "informed". Informed people are always in a better position to make better decisions.

With that said, I think it is important to simplify what is referred to in the industry as surface car care. The care of your cars paint in this case and this difference between car wax, polish.

The Essential Requirements:

  • Wash Car: At least once every two weeks; weather permitting. See car washing for specific recommendations.
  • Paint decontamination: This is performed on a freshly washed car to remove paint contaminants that waxing and polishing will not remove. Detailing clay is about as basic and simple as you are going to get and a very critical step for optimum results.
  • Waxing: with a top-rated car wax. it is accepted within the industry that a paste wax will deliver better visual performance. Which is generally of high concern for any dark colored car.
  • Sealing: with a top-rated car paint sealant. Paint sealants (not to be confused with coatings in their endless labels and formulations) are accepted within the industry as the go-to product for durability. Whether this is true or not will be forever debated. It is generally the choice for anyone who prefers working with a liquid versus a paste and typically has a light to medium colored car where visual perfection is less an issue.
  • Polishing: for paint enhancement or paint correction. I am going to contradict myself a bit here and offer what I consider a simplified way to polish your car if you are a beginner driveway detailer or enthusiast. The car polishing kits found at this random orbital buffer page are all inclusive kits that come complete with car polisher that are beginner friendly and completely safe, along with the necessary pads and polishes that most of you will ever require.

Darren's Professional Tips:

I know many of you at this point will still question as to the proper sequence of things and still have remaining questions. So let's go through a few of the typical questions and let me provide the answer:


Q. Do I have to follow each of the above listed steps?

A. No. At a minimum you need to follow the washing, decontamination, and waxing or sealing.

Q. When do I know if I need to polish my car?

A. When you look at it and your eye is able to discern and see blemishes and flaws you find unacceptable. Polishing is purely for visual enhancement. Any other benefits that may be discussed in the endless car forums will be mostly trivial.

Q. How often can I polish my car?

Car Wax Polish Summary

If you have made it this far my "car wax polish", I commend you for wanting to become part of a very select group of society know as the "informed". I have always believe that informed people make better decisions.

I hope this has helped cleared up what I consider a very convoluted subject in the world of cosmetic car care.

Do me a favor and post this to your favorite Facebook group, forum, or social media site and help me by paying forward to those you know that might benefit from this same information.


darren priest signature

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